Lesson planning is arguably one of the key skills that any educator needs to know. It helps us break down the curriculum, clearly articulate what we want our students to know and figure out how we’re going to get them there. It guides what we do in our classrooms every day. However, the way in which lesson planning is done varies greatly.
Some of us are co-teachers who plan and implement lessons with other educators. Some of us teach completely individually and plan everything on our own (while maybe getting feedback on our planning from a coach or mentor). Some of us hate lesson plans and don’t write them regularly, but naturally know where we want to guide our students. Some of us are still trying to figure out what works best for us when it comes to planning.
I have spent a majority of my 5.5 years planning alone. At first, it was simply because I wanted to ensure my plans were done on time (or ahead of time) and finding time to plan by myself was easier than working with others’ schedules. Sometimes, I’d be a couple weeks ahead in my planning and so was working with different pieces of curriculum than other teachers. Since I’ve become a coach, my meeting schedule has rarely allowed me to have time to plan with others, even if I want to.
It gets lonely planning by yourself. I work very hard to be the best educator I can be for my students, but my ideas are limited, and creativity tends to come when I can bounce back and forth in conversation with others. Throughout this school year so far, I have kept working on my own…until I got stuck on a lesson a few weeks ago.
The lesson was focused on the concept of authority as it was expressed through the role of the Imam-Caliphs of the Fatimid Empire in the 10th and 11th centuries. For some reason, my mind went blank and outside of a couple small things, I couldn’t remember what the point of this lesson was supposed to be. It was chosen to be part of the 9th grade scope and sequence so I know it was there for a reason, but I couldn’t figure it out.
I reached out to the other 9th grade teachers to see if we could find some time to talk this out, to spark some inspiration and purpose into my brain. As a coach, I believe it’s important to show my own weaknesses and admit when I get stuck, so I can build a culture of trust and sharing. Luckily, other teachers wanted that collaboration and we were quickly able to set up a time to chat. Our short, yet productive meeting led to a pretty cool lesson on understanding authority in Shia Islam and how that understanding has changed over time; I’m excited to see how it goes with my students!
Our small group has been lesson planning together for a few weeks and although it’s not always perfect, it’s been a helpful and uplifting process. We sometimes create a whole lesson together and split responsibilities in terms of writing it up and creating resources for it. Other times, we discuss ideas and then go our own ways to flesh those out into plans that fit our styles and our students. Either way, the free exchange of ideas, pedagogies, learning outcomes, and resources has been an awesome to bring back some creativity, to align ourselves to our content and to spend some time working and laughing together.
Do you have any inspiring collaboration moments?